The early morning sun filters through the bathroom curtains and falls upon the young woman sitting on the edge of the tub. She holds in her hands a small strip of plastic upon which she intently gazes. She bites her lower lip and then whispers a silent prayer. She checks her watch, takes a deep breath, and slowly raises the strip again to eye level. A broad smile spreads across her face.
She sets in motion a carefully thought out plan. First she calls the restaurant where he proposed. Then she makes an appointment to get her hair done, just to be certain she looks her absolute best. Finally she pulls out a box from the bottom of her closet and removes the lid. Under miscellaneous sweaters rests a bottle of wine, the same they drank on their honeymoon in Italy, the same she had secretly sent home and has been saving for a special occasion.
“Honey,” she says over the phone. “Let’s have a nice dinner tonight. I’ve made reservations at Auberge.”
“Auberge? Are you sure?”
“It’ll be fun. You’ve been working so hard lately, and I’m caught up on my accounts. Let’s spend an evening together.”
“Fine. There’s something I’d like to talk about with you.”
“Is six okay? You’re not in court this afternoon are you?”
“Six will be fine.” He hangs up without saying goodbye.
“I love you,” she whispers after him.
The day passes slowly. She makes some phone calls and sets a few appointments for next week, including one for the doctor. Then she spends time browsing maternity websites. But her excitement leaves her restless, so she reaches for the phone.
“Dad! You haven’t called me that in years.”
“I know. Mom was gathering up a bunch of old photos to take down to this new store. Apparently they scan all your pictures for you and put them in some kind of digital frame. She’s got me thinking of when you were in grade school, when we went to Michigan.”
“All I remember is the snow.”
She hears her mother’s voice in the background. “Who are you talking to Edward?”
He yells back. “It’s Patty.” Then he says, “She taking the phone from me. Love you.”
“Love you too, daddy.”
Her kind and gentle voice is soothing. “How are you Patty?”
“Good mom. I’m working from home this week and feeling a little stir crazy.”
“I don’t know why you even work. Mike must make more money in one year than we have our entire lives.”
Her mother is as old fashion as they come. “I like what I do.”
“You’ll have to forgive an old nag. Of course we’re very proud of you.”
“I know.” She changes the topic. “What are you guys doing this weekend? Want to drive up Saturday for dinner?”
“That’d be lovely. I think your father can use a trip. Since selling the farm he’s been going a little stir crazy himself. Can I bring something?”
“No. I’ll take care of everything.”
“Hmmm….” There’s a pause. “What’s bothering you Patty? What’s happened?”
“What makes you think something’s happened?”
“Because I know my baby girl. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, mom. Everything is just perfect. See you Saturday?”
“Okay sweetie. Let me know if you change your mind and want me to bring a pie or something. And call back when you want to tell me what’s really on your mind.”
The restaurant valet smiles appreciatively when she steps out of the car. She’s wearing her little black dress, Armani, and Tiffany pearls. Her long ash brown hair and fresh highlights fall in easy curls over delicate shoulders. She is graceful and blessed with natural elegance. No one would have guessed her humble beginnings.
She checks in with the hostess and asks her to give the bottle of wine to the waiter. The hostess agrees and then informs her that her husband is already waiting. She sees him sitting at their table and smiles at the thought that he remembered.
“Hello dear,” she kisses him on the cheek. He remains seated while she takes hers.
“I want a divorce,” he says abruptly.
Time slows. Breath increases. She blinks several times, her trembling hands falling to her stomach.
“Did you hear me?” He leans forward. “Say something.”
“I know this must be a shock, but I think it’s best to get everything out in the open. I don’t want to hurt you more by lying to you.”
She feels numb and suddenly nauseous.
“I’m afraid there’s more. I’ve been having an affair. She’s from a very respectable family. Her father is offering me a partnership in his firm, so I’ll be moving to Chicago.”
“But I love you,” she manages to say.
He reaches into the briefcase at his side. “Here are the divorce papers. If you sign them quickly you can have the house and the Mercedes. That’s more generous than most.”
“I’m sorry Patricia. It just wouldn’t have worked out between us. We are too different. I made a mistake.”
Her hands spread across her stomach until she is grasping her elbows and leaning forward. “But I’m…”
He interrupts. “Sad? Disappointed? Furious? It doesn’t matter now. I’ve made my decision. Look over the papers. Sign them and drop them off at my office in the morning.”
He rises and departs just as the waiter arrives with their bottle of wine.
(written for the Stanford Continuing Studies – Certificate in Creative Writing Program)